My Middle East & South East Asia Tour (Part 3: Singapore)

After a I hr stop-over at Colombo, Sri Lanka, we were off to Singapore on Emirates Airlines. Customs at Singapore’s not as “breezy” as Dubai. The guys at Dubai had stamped my visa on an obscure page of my passport, so the customs guy and I spent several minutes looking for it! For a moment, my heart was in my throat and I thought to myself – “this guy will think, these naija guys have come again”! Eventually, the stamp was found and I was let through (after the guy had ascertained exactly how much I had on me, counted the money and looked at my hotel booking).

One thing I noted on my trips was that no one at the different airports asked to see baggage claim tags, meaning anyone could have picked up any piece of luggage on the conveyor belt and walked out, without being challenged!

Singapore isn’t as shiny and new as Dubai and there was obvious security at the airport (soldiers with guns). My friend picked me up and we left for my hotel via train. At some point in my trip, I bought a tourist pass from a major train station -Bugis – which provides unlimited rides on trains and buses over a 3-day period as well as a list of places to go and a map. Very useful for a tourist. On a sad note, I learnt from my friend that Singapore required a deposit on every ride (which you reclaim at your destination), because Nigerians had once defrauded the system, necessitating the new rules. Sigh! You can’t eat or drink on the train or bus and there are constant terrorism advisories.

In the evening, I sampled my first local meal. Trust me, you never want to see how the food is cooked. Everything swims in broth and you eat with a fork and spoon or chopsticks– no knife or serviettes – you come with yours. There’s really nothing to cut anyway as everything’s bite-sized. The food isn’t peppery, as their chilli is sweet not hot.

On my second day, we visited the Esplanade (a cultural centre for plays and events) where there’s a Haagen Dasz store (I still dream of sampling the fondue) and Suntec Plaza –site of the Fountain of Wealth, the world’s biggest fountain and haven to restaurants featuring food from across Asia. In Asia, the food names are largely unpronounceable, so simply point at what you want or observe what someone’s eating; if you like the look of it, ask for it. But, don’t point with your forefinger – it’s impolite – point with your thumb instead.

There are few black faces in Singapore. Although, the city has the largest port in the world, hence is a centre for trade, I guess many traders prefer China – for cheaper goods. Many Nigerians congregate around Mustafa’s in Little India, a 24-hr supermarket close to an African Kitchen. My friend advised me to steer clear cause of the negative reputation that Nigerians have developed in Singapore.

There are people EVERYWHERE in Singapore! At times, I wished God could mysteriously zap about a quarter so I could walk at a leisurely pace. However, despite their numbers, I was told the city has a shrinking population, as childbirth is dropping. Yet, they are strict on immigration, preferring guest workers from other Asian countries.

The weather is hot (and when it’s not, it’s raining), Singapore has a lot of underpasses and with the train system, you rarely get to see the scenery go by. But, the city is relatively compact so you can walk everywhere if you know the way.

The top hotels are on Orchard Road (Singapore’s Rodeo Drive) or if you prefer Old World charm, try the Raffles Hotel in the Colonial District (Stamford Raffles founded modern Singapore). The national pastime in Singapore is eating. There’s food everywhere, yet it’s so healthy, you don’t put on any weight. The Singaporeans don’t have a cooking culture, so everyone eats out – you’ll see an entire family with babies and grandparents in tow at the Food Courts.

The young ladies are VERY fashionable and will rival any UNILAG babe and they love to shop! Also, because of the heat, this is the city of the scantily clad. Casual clothes are a hit here, especially jeans shorts and flip flops. Bad news though, the women are “very modestly endowed” and there are language difficulties. Only a few are spectacularly beautiful according to subjective Western standards and are usually of mixed race. There are 3 main tribes in Singapore – Chinese, Malay and Indian. Women wear their hair long and well endowed people with short hair are not considered beautiful. Singaporeans are openly affectionate, canoodling and holding hands and sex begins at a young age. But because of very strict birth control and education, you rarely see unwed mothers. Some hotels are known to provide hourly rates for quickies and it’s done openly.

Singapore is very organized – there are signs everywhere, street shops, public utilities and WIFI. Contemporary hip-hop is the rage. If you’re visiting the Singapore Zoo or Jurong Bird Park, you’ll be well advised to wear trousers and socks as there are sand flies in the “jungle”. Most parks open at about 9am and usually have specialised shows through the day, so it’s pretty much a day trip, although the Night Safari attached to the zoo has a great show at night. I sampled the famous “Singapore Sling” at Sentosa Island, where there’s an underwater show (which I was late for unfortunately). The Sling is kinda like Chapman, but it’s fruit juice and gin. I did note that the Food Courts are usually at the entrance to the theme park, so even if you don’t want to pay to enter and just need food, they do a brisk business anyway.

Singapore is a good place to go to, but you can take it all in, in a few days and rarely need to stay much longer than a week.



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